Hank Jongen is General Manager at the Department of Human Services.
For clients receiving the Age Pension who are thinking of travelling overseas for more than six weeks, live abroad or claim benefits from another country, then it’s important they first notify Centrelink.
With the Christmas bills paid off, now might be the perfect time to plan your next holiday. But before take-off, it’s important people receiving the Age Pension tell the Department of Human Services first.
The Age Pension can usually be paid for the whole time seniors are outside Australia, but there may be some changes to the additional supplements they receive with their pension. These changes depend on how long someone decides to stay outside Australia, how long they have lived in Australia, and whether their destination has a social security agreement with Australia.
If your clients are thinking of retiring overseas, taking a sabbatical or even visiting family abroad for more than six weeks, they will need to log their travel plans with the department.
In addition, some age pensioners should advise of their plans to travel for less than six weeks, as there may be changes to their pension upon leaving Australia. This includes cases where they receive their Age Pension through a social security agreement with another country, or if they started receiving the Age Pension after returning to live in Australia within the last two years.
People can still receive the Age Pension even if they are going to live in another country. However, travellers who leave Australia for more than six weeks will see their Pension Supplement drop to the lowest rate and their Energy Supplement stop.
If someone leaves Australia for more than 26 weeks, their rate of payment will adjust depending on how long they were an Australian resident between the age of 16 and Age Pension age. This is called Australian Working Life Residence.
For example:A pensioner who has lived in Australia since they were 16 years old has decided to move to Canada to be closer to their son. They have informed the Department of Human Services of their plan and will receive the outside Australia rate of the Age Pension and the Pension Supplement at the base rate. However, they will need to seek advice from the department on how these payments may affect their Age Pension.
Generally, if someone has lived in Australia for more than 35 years between the ages of 16 and Age Pension age, their rate of payment will not change, but if they have lived in Australia for less, they will normally get a lower rate.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders are able to travel overseas for up to 19 weeks before their card is cancelled but other concession cards, including the Pensioner Concession Card and the Low Income Health Care Card, will be invalid after six weeks away.
For example: A pensioner who has lived in Australia for 20 years between the age of 16 and 65 intends to take a 12-month holiday to tour Europe and visit family in England. They have informed the Department of Human Services of their plan. After six weeks absence from Australia, their Pension Supplement will reduce to the base rate and their Energy Supplement will cease. Their Pensioner Concession Card will also be cancelled. After 26 weeks, their Age Pension will be reduced to 20/35ths or 57 per cent of their full entitlement until they return to Australia. The change in payment rate reflects that the pensioner lived in Australia for 20 out of 35 years.
Age Pensioners can update their details on their Centrelink account through myGov by selecting Personal Details from the side menu and then select Travelling Outside of Australia, or by calling 132 300.
For more information about the Age Pension if you travel outside Australia, go to humanservices.gov.au and search ‘Age Pension overseas’.
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